Superburst Mixtape Microreviews

Warren Ellis has been uploading some interesting mixtapes here: Superburst Mixtapes. On a whim, I started adding microreviews of the content. They're not very good, but I've collected them here with links to the mixes. I started reviewing at 8 and 1 happened to be reuploaded, hence the gap in the middle. I may backfill. I may not. The links are directly to the MP3 files, btw.

Superburst 1

That fecker Ellis chooses the week/end of my national holiday AND our glorious defeat at the hands of the Welsh to release not one, but THREE bloody mixtapes. Anyway.

1. Sidecar is a lot more polished than a lot of the stuff that shows up on these mixes. Reminds me a little of the Cocteau twins; female lyrics over breathy keyboard and electronic beats.

2. The Violettes: fairly straightforward guitar-and-drum-based rock with processed female vocals. Not terrifically exciting, but well assembled and something you'd tap your foot to. Odd little keyboard riff at the end, too.

3. thefireandreason: more female lyrics, this time over industrial music as played on a Casio keyboard, or something. Lots of processed vocals, and then finally some stomping bass/drums once it gets into the chorus. Not sure I like that it all drops out again once they're back into the verse. The male vocal in this makes it sound a bit like Trent™, but on the whole there's a more of an Electric Six feel to this, probably due to the main chord sequence. It's got a good drive, but it's lacking something.

Superburst 8

Track 1's a spoken-word piece about being a smart kid among the drones. Nicely worded, very nicely performed. Also I like the mention of "Grauniad".

Track 2 sounds a bit like Catatonia. Good Catatonia, if that's your bag.

Track 3 starts off sounding like someone's playing "Rock Lobster" or maybe "Carnage Visors" down the hall. Further on it sounds like someone had recorded it on a flaky tape deck in the room next to the studio. Audio fiddling aside, it's a bit monotonous.

Track 4 opens with a fiddle piece that puts me in mind of the guy playing the saw in "Delicatessen". Female vocals and, I think, acoustic bass and brushes on the snare give a very mellow Kate Bush sort of vibe, although the vocal's sharper. The song does go on a bit, though.

Superburst 9

Track 1. Drums from Bowie's Earthling album, polite English vocals, and a chorus that sounds like they hired the Stranglers to do it. Good stuff.

Track 2. Gentle vibraphone-like intro gives way to some overprocessed noise over some distinctly analogue-sounding stuff. Kinda industrial electronica. Not really my thing.

Track 3. Starts off sounding like something Moby or Norman Cook would use as a backing sample. Once it gets going you realise this may already have happened. Again, not really my thing, but if you like gospelish lyrics over heavily distorted drums, this is for you.

Superburst 10

1. The Dagons sound kinda like early Beatles backed by a marching band. Sure, some of that may be artifacts of audio compression, but who cares. Good stuff. Reminds me a bit of the cover of The Crystal Ship that appeared on the X-Files movie soundtrack.

2. Hope Rides A Pony: Phil Spector would be producing this if he wasn't busy dealing with that whole murder rap. Jangly sixties-sounding music with girlie singing, sounding not unlike the Ronettes or some such ensemble. Wouldn't be out of place in Good Morning Vietnam (hey, a review theme!) It's actually reminding me of a specific song but damned if I can recall what it is.

3. Wait, we're not in the sixties any more. Or maybe we are. This'd be more late sixties/early seventies weed-smoking hippy music. Becky Stark sings in the falsetto range over muted guitar. I guess this'd have to be in Hair.

Superburst 11

A slow, strange Saturday night indeed...

1. Dammit, I keep hearing music that sounds like stuff I have at home, except I can't remember what the originals are. shocker_tv is some non-English language over what sounds like a karaoke backing track. It's reminding me of some of the stuff that turned up on the William S. Burroughs/Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy track. Wait, now they're singing in English. I'm not sure what to make of this track at all, but I don't think I'll be listening to it again.

2. Grandma: Percussion by Space Invaders, plasticky keyboard noises, and Babylon Zoo doing the vocals. I think Warren's got a thing for heavily processed vocals because they're showing up on a lot of these tracks.

3. Jessica Vale: Heavy trip-hoppish music with, yes, more processed female vocals. Nice sub-bass in this. Actually, I may have got the artists mixed up because the mp3 tagging isn't in the same order as the tracklist on the site.

4. The Gloom: The high-pitched feedback at the start of this made me want to fling the headphones across the room. This is frankly crap, and not even worth quirky value. Makes Aiden Walsh (anyone remember him? Rock My Brainy Head?) sound like a musical genius.

5. The Sob Sisters: Hmm, there's some nice cello at the start of this. With a double-bass accompaniment by the sound of it, and a maraca or something for percussion. For some reason it puts me in mind of a Monty Python song - I'd fully expect the chorus to concern the joy of having a penis, or the shocking and blasphemous waste of genetic material indulged in by the male population. I got bored with this, though.

Superburst 12

BlkTyger opens with a beat like something off Soul Coughing's El Oso, then comes in with some female vox and minimal keyboard. Nothing much else happens for the remainder of 4 minutes. Bit of a waste of time, but you might get a good sample out of it.

The Crux is pretty good rap, plain and simple. Again, minimal music, but it works a lot better than BlkTyger. The breakdowns are a little off; a little too gratuituously weird to fit the flow, but I'll forgive 'em that cos I like the rest of it. "Sliced your ear like Van Gogh", indeed.

Superburst 13

Zombina: What is this? Church Organ? Ah, some guitar, that's better. But speed-metal drumming, which I really hate - it sounds like the drummer's having an epileptic fit. Nasal female vocals whining "Deadalive" through the chorus, but thankfully there's only a minute and a half of this crap.

The Minions Of Jeffrey is — what's this genre of music called? It's like slow ska, but it's not reggae - it's got more of a rock backing to it. Nice brass, and a clean crunchy guitar sound. I can imagine these guys playing a wedding, but that's not to say it's bad music or anything. Your mum would like it, though. Well, except when they get a bit overexcited at the end.

Lisa Lightning is of the "quirky female vocals over noodly guitar" genre. Not my bag, really. I prefer when the vocals are either sung or spoken, not something in between. May have taken singing lessons from John Lydon.

The Strap-Ons: More non-sung lyrics, but this is a little more enjoyable than Ms. Lightning. Nothing remarkable about the music; fairly bog-standard guitar/bass/drums.

And finally... one more crunchy guitar, but it sounds like The Moon Knights could only afford a Casio mini-keyboard. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, that's the "funky clavichord" setting. Lyrics are sort of Jesus-and-Mary-Chain - stuck in the back of the mix with a ton of reverb.

Lisa Lightning followed up my comments to suggest that I check out the stuff on her own site since it's better. The site's a bit painful on the eyes, but when you find the link to myspace (it'd scrolled off the right side of the screen for me), it is indeed worth listening to.

Superburst 14

Doomed, Lo-Fi And In Love by The Smittens is sort of quirky. Nice vocals over clean guitar. It reminds me of something a friend once loaned me by, I dunno, the Rachels or someone like that. The female vocals are a bit Liz Phair, actually, especially with the slightly discordant harmonies. Not bad.

Make Them Wonder by Lily Holbrook, ah, there's the postprocessed vocals I was expecting. A dark sound, a bit gothy, amusing lyrics. Again, not bad.

Better Run by My Little Phony - these guys remind me a lot of Tychonaut. I have no idea what you call this genre, but they're both in it. I'm not hugely wowed by this stuff, but I'm not going to skip past it much, either.

Superburst 15

Blue by Birthday Massacre absolutely rocks. It's a bit like one of the tracks off the Lost In Space soundtrack, but I'd have to listen to that album again to figure out which one. Nice chunky industrial/metal guitar bit into gentle female vox over something that sounds like video game music from a 128k Sinclair Spectrum (showing my age now...) and back again. I've been skipping forward to this track quite a bit this past week.

Back from Hell by My Little Phony isn't quite so good, alas. Oddball keyboardy noise, quiet girly lyrics, and a little emo-ish guitar leading into something that'd be quite upbeat if it wasn't for the vocals. Again, there's a lot of Tychonaut's sound about this, especially in the vox.

Superburst 16

The Korovas' Losing It All is okay until the singing starts, then I was looking for the "SKIP" button. The music's fairly straightforward guitar/drums rock, but really. The vocals destroy this.

The No Doctors, on the other hand, open Floating Woman with some odd-sounding but impressive vocals, and then proceed to apply some poorly-tuned (or maybe poorly played) guitar to it. Aside from the guitar abuse, I kinda like this. Maybe these guys should mix it up with The Korovas.

Finally for this mixtape, MMhm! (exclamation mark included) by The Venue sounds like Muddy Waters or John Lee Hooker guesting on a Beach Boys track. I rather like this, although there's not quite enough to it and it's over quickly enough.

The Korovas (I presume, anyway) suggested I check out their website for more - and better - music. Alas, it links to some disaster of a junk-advertising-for-downloads site which apparently didn't want to play ball with my browser, so I can't tell you if their other music is worth listening to. Guys, sign up to MySpace already. Also, a single hyperlinked image for a website front page isn't a great idea. It's a site, not a book that needs a cover. Put the information out front where people will see it immediately.

Superburst 17

Two tracks that rock, and one that doesn't. Star 27's Find a Bridge starts as it means to go on, with some banging, pacy piano. The sound quality of the MP3's a bit naff, especially if you're listening to it in your car, but the tune's really great - reminiscent of Boomtown Rats' Looking After Number One, now that I think about it. Good lyrics, too: "... because you haven't cracked a smile / since 1982... " makes me, well, crack a smile every time it comes around.

Ophelia's Postcard by The Poet Dogs makes me think of 101 eighties bands; right now I'm thinking Tracy and the Primitives, probably because of the fairly stock distorted guitar during the verses, but I'd also considered the likes of Deacon Blue when pondering it previously. Nice acoustic breakdown at the chorus and backing vocals, although I think more girly-sounding backup would benefit the overall sound of the track. The bridge-to-chorus transition is textbook, but works well enough that this isn't a bad point. Aaaand let's fade out on BIG FEEDBACK, eh?

And the non-rocking track: See, from Dynaflo. It doesn't fit this tape, really, since it's much less pacy, much less bright, simply much less fun. I'm not sure if I actually dislike the song or if the two preceeding it just put me in the wrong frame of mind for it. Actually, having listened to it for a bit, I'm pretty sure I dislike the song. For the record, it's sort of mournful lyrics over picked guitar with some oddball electronic "space noises" going on in the background. If that sounds like your thing, give it a blast.

Superburst 18

Okay, I did not like this collection much. Well, except for the last bit, which was interesting, but not music, so I'll just mention that up front and then get on with the rest of the tracks. The whole one-minute-vacation thing is nice, but it still makes me think of Maciej Ceglowski's audioblogging manifesto. Although maybe that's the point. Anyway, on to the music:

Get The Drugs from Le Tournoi. What? did we come in during this? did we leave before it ended? Sounds like a slice out of The Doors' Road House Blues and only lasts for 20 seconds.

Rebecca Closure's Mulaka bored the hell out of me. It's some sort of non-English half-shouty stuff over sort of Spanish guitar, and wouldn't be out of place as incidental music in a Robert Rodriguez flick, but four and a half minutes of it was mind-numbing. No thanks.

Subflex sound a bit sort of New Order/Joy Division, leaning more toward the latter than the former. Goodbye 20th Century is good if you like that sort of stuff, but personally I'm not terrifically keen on it, so thumbs down here.

Track four - Poor Johnny from, and I kid you not, The Bonsai Kittens - is what you would call "quirky", meaning it's funny if you listen to the lyrics, and pretty pointless if you don't. It's sort of "The Ronnettes Sing About ASDA". Listen to it once for the lyrics, and once to get the bits you missed, but it's not really a keeper by any stretch of the imagination.

Superburst 19

Dead Kids Disco - Boredom Kills: Sounds like computer game music as composed and performed by Linkin Park with a very young John Lydon on the vocals. Odd mixture of very 8-bit sounding synths, shouty lyrics and distorted something or other that may or may not be a guitar.

Squelch - Gesolution: Good ol' drum'n'bass with a slightly acid-y feel, and a bit in the middle that sounds like the Avalanches are guesting. Wouldn't be out of place as the music for an Amiga demo. Mostly boring and repetitive, alas.

Y.A.C.H.T - Sometimes I Doubt Your Commitment To Sparkle Motion: Deserves some sort of award for the title alone. More 8-bit sounding stuff meshed in with more regular electronica and processed drums.

Vi An - Evening Song On The Fishing Boat: Whiplash change of pace into eastern music. Woah. Not really my shtick at ALL.

Superburst 20

Tigrics - Kell OMD: I think this is an aural poster child for the Ambient genre, at least until the scratchy beat kicks in, but even then it's barely raising itself from its laid-back position.

Quantazelle - Braking: Somewhat harsher electronica, with vocals; the opening is somewhat reminiscent of Jarre, and the buildup is kicking some other similarity in the back of my head that I can't seem to pull out at the moment, but may be one of the Chemical Brothers' less frenetic tracks. I like this.

The Oranges Underground - Creep: A cover of the Radiohead classic, with a vocal performance by Leeloo from The Fifth Element. Or at least that's how it sounds. Not terrifically engaging.

L-10 - London Below: I wasn't sure what to expect given that the title immediately makes me think of Gaiman's Neverwhere; I guess some muttering at the start that sounds a bit like, well, a geezer (innit!) shouldn't be surprising. The music's fairly bland, with extremely plastic percussion and an odd mix of clipped vs. sustained sounds layered on top of it. Again, not great.

The Mathletes - Retarded Futuristic Pinocchio Scenario More "quirky". Musically a competent piece, mixing guitar with yet more plastic drums, and well-sung lyrics complete with harmonies and a sort of harpsichordy keyboard break. At least the lyrics aren't the feature of the song, unlike the ASDA track mentioned previously. So, thumbs up for this.

Superburst 21

Aaron McMullan - I Do Believe You Are The Devil: one man and his guitar, with unidentified backing singers. Not really my thing as it reminds me of the likes of David Gray.

Hope For A Golden Summer - Malt Liquor: this is nice. For some reason it puts me in mind of Edie Brickell, or maybe early Sheryl Crow. Strong female vocals over fairly minimal guitar/percussion.

Lycius - Marilyn: more gentle guitar. I think probably the only stuff like this I've previously heard has been on other mixtapes; possibly Subflex from Superburst 18, but I didn't like them then and I don't much like this now. And it goes on way too long.

The Jamming Arabs - The Jamming Arabs Are Coming: kicks in sounding a bit like the Southpark theme music; you'd expect nothing less than weirdness from the artist/title. The lyrics are entirely "baaa", "nah nah" and "yeah yeah", and it's short enough to be a theme song for something. Too short to like much.

Nuclear Family - Ticking Clock: hmm, maybe in addition to my previous assessment of Mr. Ellis' liking for processed vocals I will add a predilection for shouty lyrics. Just at the end of this track it occurred to me that it's actually very like the B52s. I didn't like it as much as I liked them, though. Vaguely similar guitar sound to the previous track. The drumming in this is pretty good; there's a strong thread of early Cure in the music, on the whole. If it wasn't for the lyrics I'd rather like this.

Grande Cobra - Rebel Music: nice chunky guitar, solid drums, and, er, jeez. What happened to the vox? Something of a Billy Idol sneer, but really this sort of music needs more punch in the singing. A shame, because otherwise this is a decent track; as it stands, it got better on a second listen - maybe just the opening lyrics need reworking. Certainly stands up to a few listens, at least.

Lastinline - Fellatio: more shouty vocals. And I don't much like the music, either. Vaguely metally riff, followed by so much distorted guitar that it may as well be white noise. Keep it.

Superburst 22

Hyacinth Toamrubby - Until Tomorrow: Weird acapella piece. Nice lyrics, but it sounds like Random Male Vocalist Ensemble Of The Month Club down at the local. Actually, it reminds me a little of the opening to The Stone Roses' Tightrope.

Ballpoint Pens - Nine Out of Ten: Stars off sounding like the Sesame Street Theme, picks up a bit too late with some guitar that sounds like it was recorded on a cheap tape deck. Could have been better with a little more work on the production; the latter part of the song is pretty good aside from the sound quality.

Samarah - Pale Honey: Trippy sort of ethereal-lyrics-over-minimalist-electronica. Would probably fit very nicely on the soundtrack (or more likely the score) for The Crow: The Franchising or some such. Not great as a standalone piece.

It's got a good beat, and I can dance to it.